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Sunday, June 5, 2005

Help Our Friends

Dear Fellow Citizens:

As you know, the National Register-listed Century Building in downtown St. Louis was recently demolished to make way for a parking garage. We thought this tragic demolition was the end of an ugly chapter in St. Louis' history. Now, it's gotten uglier.

Before the demolition, two Downtown residents, Marcia Behrendt and Roger Plackemeier, took principled action to try to save the Century Building. They were plaintiffs in two legal cases that sought to keep this historic building as part of our architectural heritage. But the buildings came down anyway.

Now, the City of St. Louis, the State of Missouri and the project developers have filed a lawsuit against them, alleging malicious prosecution -- and seeking actual damages exceeding $1.5 million, plus punitive damages "in an amount sufficient to deter said defendants and others from like conduct."

Should the City, State and developers prevail, Marcia and Roger could lose all of their assets. Just to defend themselves will cost tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs, even if lawyers donate some services.

Marcia and Roger stood up for us and for our community. Now, it's up to us to stand with them.

You can help in one of two ways:

-- Write a check for any amount to help with legal costs. Make it payable to Downtown Defense Fund, and mail it to:

Downtown Defense Fund
c/o Scott Kluesner, Treasurer
7480 Cornell Avenue
St. Louis MO 63130

Funds received by the end of June are most important.

-- Attend a free fundraiser on Saturday, June 25, 7:30 p.m. at Gallery Urbis Orbis, 419 N. Tenth Street. Bring cash or check in any amount to add to the pot, and enjoy music and good food and the company of people who care about our architectural heritage. No need to purchase tickets -- but please do RSVP to mmnewman@earthlink.net so we can plan refreshments.

Let's show our support for preservation and for citizen action. Let's show it big.

Best regards,

Margie Newman
Amanda Doyle
Fundraising Co-Chairs, Downtown Defense Fund

PS Note that donations are NOT tax-deductible. Should the lawsuit be resolved before the money raised is spent, remaining funds will be donated to a group or groups dedicated to architectural preservation.


J R said...

I'm from Chicago. We're pretty fortunate that our architectural battles usually don't get this retaliatory.

I admire Marcia and Roger and hope their suit is dismissed and expenses covered for their community service.

Do you think that if they had formed a 501c(3) they would have been better protected? Did they consider that and rule it out? Is there something to be learned here for those who will want to take stances like theirs in the future? Because you know it's going to happen again. --Jennifer Roche

Michael R. Allen said...

Almost all of Marcia and Roger's legal work was donated by an attorney working closely with Landmarks Association, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. For the purposes of a lawsuit to halt demolition, I think that Landmarks needed a neighboring property owner to file, and Roger and Marcia own lofts nearby while Landmarks only rents office space.